If you’ve lived in Northeast Pennsylvania for any length of time, you have probably experienced a wide range of wildlife. Not all of it roams on four legs—some of it has wings and flies.

There are over 80 insect species that reside in Pennsylvania—namely bees, ants, wasps, and hornets. Not all insects bite or sting and not all bites or stings are harmful (unless you have an allergy). The good news is that most insects will not bite or sting unless they are provoked, or their home is being disturbed somehow.

Insect bites and stings do happen, though. So let’s look at five of the most common types, and more importantly, how to treat them.

Ticks have small round heads and a hard outer shell.

What are the top insect bites in Northeast Pennsylvania?

1. Mosquitos

A mosquito is a type of fly. Theirs is undoubtedly the most well-known insect bite, characterized by a red or swollen mark on the skin near the bite site and a persistent itch.

2. Spiders

Most hard-to-identify insect bites are mistakenly called spider bites. The fangs of most spiders are too small to break the skin, and their venom is not harmful to humans. Some spiders are large; their bites more dangerous. 

Typical symptoms of a spider bite include redness or swelling at the site, pain, or itch. If you are bit by a black widow or brown recluse spider, call your doctor right away. We discuss these bites in more detail below.

3. Ticks

Ticks have small round heads and a hard outer shell. They are usually found on humans, pets, and nearly all vegetation (plants, grass, leaf piles). Most tick bites are harmless. 

Others can trigger an allergic reaction like pain, swelling, a burning sensation at the site, a rash, blistering, or difficulty breathing if you are severely allergic. Some ticks carry diseases that they pass on when they bite. 

Tick-borne illness symptoms can include a red mark or rash on or near the bite site, a full-body rash, neck stiffness, headaches, nausea, weakness, muscle or joint aches or pain, fever, chills, or swollen lymph nodes. Seek medical attention right away if you’ve been bitten by a tick.

4. Bedbugs

Bedbugs are often mistaken for ticks; there are important differences. Ticks are usually found outdoors in vegetation. 

Bedbugs prefer the indoors and can usually be found in the cracks or crevices, on chairs and couches, and folds of curtains. Bedbug bites usually cause mild symptoms like redness or swelling; more severe reactions may include fever, bleeding from the center of the bite, small red bumps surrounded by blisters and hives, and a painful burning sensation.

5. Flies 

We’re all familiar with the standard housefly, which is harmless. However, other species of flies can inflict painful bites, including black flies, sand flies, deer flies, horse flies, and mosquitos. 

Besides causing pain and possible allergic reactions, some flies (like mosquitos) transmit diseases like Zika and West Nile viruses.

What are the top stinging insects in Northeast Pennsylvania?

1. Bees

A bee injects a type of venom into the skin when it bites. A person who is not allergic to a bee sting will typically experience sudden sharp pain at the site, which lasts for a few seconds, and a swollen red mark which can be itchy or painful.

2. Wasps

Like bees, wasps inject venom when they puncture a person’s skin. Wasp stings are characterized by a swollen red lump, usually with a small white center (about the size of a pen tip) at the contact site.

3. Yellow Jackets

Yellowjacket stings are very painful. If you are not allergic to yellow jacket venom, symptoms include pain, redness, and swelling at the site. It can take a few hours for these symptoms to subside.

A bee injects a type of venom into the skin when it bites.

What insect bites are the most dangerous (poisonous vs. non-poisonous)?

As mentioned, unless you are allergic to any of the above insects, you will likely experience a few hours of pain and discomfort after a bite or sting.

Insect venom causes an allergic reaction. Even if the insect is not poisonous, any bite or sting could be dangerous for those with skin or internal sensitivities. If you are allergic to certain insects’ venom, always carry your Epi-pen or medical antidote kit in case of direct contact.

Some insects are not dangerous on their own, but they can carry disease. Fleas are among the most well-known transmitters of various diseases.

Flea bites could also lead to a persistent itch and considerable scratching. This could lead to an open wound—a breeding ground for infection.

Some insects are truly dangerous; a bite or sting could be life-threatening. 

These insects include:

Brown recluse spider

Although native to Pennsylvania, the brown recluse spider has migrated from the northeast and is usually found in the southern United States. A standard brown recluse spider bite will have one or two lesions or bite sites. 

Unlike most insect bites with red centers, a brown recluse bite will have a pale, bluish-white, or purple center. The affected area is flat or sunken rather than red or swollen. Brown recluses rarely bite, but their bites can be very dangerous; even small amounts of their venom can be toxic.

Black widow spiders

Black widows are easy to spot, with their distinctive shiny black exoskeletons and red hourglass markings. These arachnids like dark, damp areas. 

Their venom affects a person’s nervous system. When a person is bit by a black widow, they will feel intense pain and burning, redness, and swelling. 

More severe symptoms, such as muscle pain or stiffness, nausea or vomiting, abdominal cramping, muscle weakness, or tremors, may follow. Call your doctor immediately. (If a black widow has bitten your child, go straight to the emergency room, as this kind of bite can be fatal for a young child).

The most effective remedies will depend on the type of bite.

What are natural remedies to treat bites?

The most effective remedies will depend on the type of bite. In general, it’s best to keep the following items on hand to relieve the pain or discomfort from a variety of bites:

  • Honey: Honey contains a long list of vitamins and minerals that help treat insect bites and stings.
  • Witch hazel: An excellent overall remedy for a range of insect bites. Simply pour a small amount onto a cotton ball and apply to the affected area.
  • Tea tree oil: Stronger than witch hazel, tea tree oil is best for more intense mosquito or ant bites. It is also very effective for treating head lice, which is a very common issue and has no correlation to personal hygiene.
  • Allicin gel: Found in raw garlic, and a highly effective natural remedy.

As always, seek medical attention if you have a severe reaction to a bite or sting. You may be allergic and unaware of it.

What are other remedies recommended for insect bites?

Topical creams and oral medications help treat insect bites. However, it is best to keep various remedies in your medicine cabinet so you have the correct treatment for the bite or sting in question.

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